Credits: TES.
Credits: TES.

Education International mourns Fred Jarvis

published 17 June 2020 updated 19 June 2020

Fred Jarvis, who led the National Union of Teachers (NUT) as its General Secretary from 1975 to 1989, has died at 95. His service to trade unionism and education, however, began long before his work at the NUT as leader and in other capacities and continued until his death.

Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union (the merged, successor organisation of the NUT) said: "Fred's commitment to the NUT and the NEU after its amalgamation with the ATL in 2017 was unstinting. He continued to attend all annual conferences and play a part in the union's work to the very end... Fred will be missed by many but also remembered by many for the remarkable contribution he made throughout his life to education and the trade union movement."

Jarvis was the leader of the NUT when the most sweeping post-World War II transformation of education was adopted by Parliament during the Government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the 1988 Education Reform Act. The Act undermined the Education Act of 1944 including local authority responsibility for free comprehensive primary and secondary school education and expanded opportunity and equality in the school system. It had been a fundamental part of the post-war consensus supported by all major parties.

The 1988 reform profoundly shifted education priorities, structures, and governance. It planted the seeds for many subsequent changes, from academies to high stakes testing and league tables. In addition, the Act diminished the status of teachers, by removing much of their discretion, including on curriculum, as well as preventing education trade unions from negotiating directly with their employers.

In paying tribute, EI General Secretary David Edwards said, “Fred Jarvis, in his more than six decades of service to education and trade unionism, fought for universal public education as a central part of building fairer, freer societies. He was one of the first union and education leaders to understand and articulate the dangers to education and teachers of modern, mis-guided reforms. The reforms remain in place, but he helped change the debate so that they are increasingly being questioned and challenged.”

“Jarvis was a visionary trade unionist, true internationalist and education leader. He will be missed, but his contributions will continue to help shape the future of education”.